Fernkloof Nature Reserve was the star attraction this long weekend, where the annual Hermanus Flower Festival offered visitors a myriad of ways to enjoy, appreciate and learn about its treasure chest of wild flowers. Hosted by the Hermanus Botanical Society with the theme ‘Fynbos4U’, the four-day programme was chock-a-block with talks, workshops, demos and exhibitions.
Taking centre stage was the dramatic floral display in the Fernkloof Hall, entitled ‘Renewal after the Fynbos fire’. Designed by Leon Kluge and Tristan Woudberg, the Chelsea Flower Show award-winning team, the display was executed with the help of the Botanical Society’s ‘flower ladies’. These volunteers were also responsible for the collection of over 400 specimens from in and around the reserve that were on display in the hall.
Speakers Corner was the venue for the interesting talks by guest speakers on topics that ranged from ‘Herbs for Health’ and ‘Nature’s Pharmacy’ to ‘Sustainable flower harvesting’ and ‘Tourism in conservation areas’, as well as a master class on ‘Themed African Botanical Gin’. One of the most popular talks was ‘Gold at Chelsea’ by Leon Kluge, who has been responsible for the design and construction of Kirstenbosch’s exhibition on behalf of SANBI at the world’s most prestigious flower show for the past two years, winning gold on both occasions.
Leon entertained his captivated audience with a step-by-step description of the ambitious planning, the hair-raising logistics, and the gruelling hours it takes to stage such an exhibition halfway across the world – and all the things that can, and often did, go wrong. The theme of South Africa’s exhibit at the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show was ‘Mountains of Abundance’ and the bold design depicted a silhouette of Table Mountain on the one side and the Magaliesberg on the other, with waterfalls and streams created with bright Ndebele hats. Around this mountainous theme, the various species of plants and flowers were arranged as they occur together on the wild slopes of our mountains.
With an impressive background in horticulture and landscaping, and a dazzling track record in creating show gardens all over the world, Leon remains down-to-earth, with a sense of humour that no doubt contributes to his resilience when working under pressure. He has created signature landscapes in 13 countries, including for Disney, the United Nations, Hollywood celebrities and international governments. In addition to two consecutive golds at Chelsea, he has also won several international awards, including gold at both the Singapore Garden Festival (which was the topic of his second talk at the Hermanus Flower Festival) and the New Zealand International Flower Show.
In between the various activities, festivalgoers were able to relax and mingle at the Fynbos Café next to the hall, which served coffee, tea, cake and light lunches. The Market Hub had various stalls selling fynbos-related products such as herbs, plants and bunches of cut flowers, essential oils and natural cosmetics, fynbos-themed fabrics, garden tools, seeds, bird feeders and organic pesticides, environmentally friendly household products and even Fynbos Gins. Workshops hosted in the Eco Tent included ‘Make your own kokedama (mossball)’, ‘How to make your own terrarium’ and ‘Create a Tussie Mussie’.
Other attractions that were especially popular among younger festivalgoers, included Whale Coast Conservation’s Chameleon Rescue Project, the raptors and owls from Eagle Encounters Rehabilitation Centre, the snake handling demo, nature walks, and fynbos crafts. It was a joy to see this festival, which celebrates our pristine Fernkloof Reserve, supported so enthusiastically by both locals and visitors. May it continue to grow and prosper!